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Overcoming Obstacles to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the High Tech World. Kelly Lopez File Sr. Competitive Strategy Manager Microsoft Corporation kellyfi@microsoft.com. Agenda. Introduction How are women doing in high tech? Obstacles to success How to survive How to thrive

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Overcoming obstacles to success surviving and thriving in the high tech world l.jpg

Overcoming Obstacles to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the High Tech World

Kelly Lopez File

Sr. Competitive Strategy Manager

Microsoft Corporation


Agenda l.jpg
Agenda the High Tech World

  • Introduction

  • How are women doing in high tech?

  • Obstacles to success

  • How to survive

  • How to thrive

  • Personal highs and lows

  • Resources

Introduction l.jpg
Introduction the High Tech World

  • 37 years old

  • Hispanic

  • Mother of 7 month old baby girl

  • BS in Computer Engineering from U of W

  • 20 years of experience:

    • 8 software test and design

    • 9 software development

    • 3 competitive marketing

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How are women doing in high tech? the High Tech World

  • Better in pay equity

    • Non high tech: $.73 on the dollar

    • Tech: $.92 on the dollar

40% of Computer Science degrees awarded to women in 1994

*National Science Foundation

*1998 US Census Data

*2001 survey from techie.com of 106,000 workers across 39 U.S. job markets, all levels

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Top 50 Fortune Most Powerful Women the High Tech World

1. Carly Fiorina – Chairman & CEO, Hewlett-Packard

2. Meg Whitman – President & CEO, eBAY

6. Anne Mulcahy – President & CEO, Xerox

23. Betsy Bernard – President & CEO, AT&T Consumer

28. Ann Livermore – EVP, HP Services

30. Linda Sandford – SVP & Group Exec, IBM Storage Systems

32. Donna Dubinsky – CEO, Handspring

47. Janet Davidson – Group President, Lucent Integrated Networks

49. Louise Francesconi – VP & GM, Missile Systems, Raytheon

9 out of 50 are at technology-related companies

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Common obstacles the High Tech World

  • Attraction to technical education

  • Getting through the door

  • Retaining women long enough for them to move up

  • Individual obstacles

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Education issues the High Tech World

  • Qualified female students don’t choose scientific majors

    • OTA report of 2,000 9th grade students

      • End of high school: 280 male, 220 females have sufficient math for scientific degree

      • But only 16% of qualified females vs. 50% of males choose scientific majors

  • College can reduce self esteem of women

    • 80 high school valedictorians – 20% of both men and women ranked selves as highly intelligent

      • During college, women outperformed in GPA

      • But only 3% of women vs.20% of men ranked selves high after sophomore year!

  • Personal experience

    • The other two women in my program quit during 1st quarter!

    • Issues with a prof that wanted to flunk me out of Analog Electronics

    • Lab partners scarce, had to be creative

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Filling the pipeline the High Tech World

  • UMass College of Engineering – great work!

    • Minority Engineering Program

    • Engineering Exploration Program (SWE, Girl Scouts, College of Engineering effort)

    • Women in Engineering Program

    • TWIST – great way to retain women!

  • Corporate sponsorship

    • IBM, Ford, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, Microsoft

  • Take Your Daughters to Work Day

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Getting through the employer’s door the High Tech World

  • Hiring processes can be um, biased…

  • Women often disqualify themselves

    • Men: 20% job knowledge is enough

    • Women: 80%!

  • Not negotiating well starts you at a disadvantage

  • Learn to “sell” your qualities to prospective employers

  • On the other hand…

    • Education pipeline problems mean fewer female candidates available – they need you


Networking is the #1 success factor for women in high tech

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Retention the High Tech World

  • Women are highest turnover group

    • Work-life balance

    • Lack of mentoring and networking

    • Can’t fulfill ambitions, lack of professional development

    • “No matter how hard I try, I won’t win”

    • Lack of visibility to upper management

  • Turnover makes it hard to find qualified female candidates for leadership roles

Mentoring is key to retention

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Individual obstacles the High Tech World

  • “The imposter” syndrome

    • Stanford study shows men more confident

      • Men more confident that they can handle the workload (2x)

      • Women half as comfortable speaking up in class

      • 33% of women (vs 9% men) fear that speaking up will expose them as imposters

  • Women tend to downgrade their capabilities

    • Success attributed to “lots of hard work” vs. men who claim “innate ability”

  • Competing can be uncomfortable

  • Fear of the unknown, aversion to changes

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How to survive the High Tech World

  • Fake it until you feel more confident!!

    • Everybody messes up

    • Everybody feels insecure about their job performance

    • The most successful people are not those who mess up the least

  • Learn to speak up in many different situations

  • Ask the right questions

    *Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, 1994

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How to thrive the High Tech World

  • Get more comfortable with risks, change

    • My switch to sales and marketing

    • Stepped down from manager to individual contrib role

    • “Can do” attitude helps ensure success

  • Mentor and be mentored

    • 46.8% of women of color cite lack of mentoring as major barrier to advancement (Catalyst Survey)

    • 44% of women of color cite mentoring as a critical success factor

    • UMass participates in MentorNet program – use it!

  • Enjoy working with men

    • They say what they think

    • They make great mentors

    • They have wives and daughters, too…


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My experiences… the High Tech World

Just like the Olympics: “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”

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The Agony of Defeat the High Tech World

  • Wanted to quit many times while working 30+ hours and FT college

  • Couldn’t break into the “men’s club” at last company

  • Had to fire someone for sexual harassment

  • Presentation to German Bankers 1st 6 months on the job at Microsoft

  • Car and luggage stolen in Malaysia

  • Literally 100’s of dumb questions asked

  • In front of SVP – realized I was not prepared enough

Motto: always make it to the nearest bathroom before you start crying

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The Thrill of Victory the High Tech World

  • Overcame fear of public speaking!

    • Presentation to 1500+ peers at Moscone within 5 months on the job

    • Denmark – 4 hour E-Commerce “seminar”

    • Bangkok – followed SVP to present to 1000+ on E-Commerce

    • #1 rated speaker in the Executive Briefing Center

  • Making a difference

    • Conference Board conference, sharing results with MS management

    • Most Influential Women of Color in Technology award

      • Included live radio interview

    • Mentoring and being mentored

  • Technical accomplishments

    • Kernel mode driver development in C++ of an NFS Server

    • Designed and implemented an API for a customer; resulted in $1M sale

    • Promoted to manage a team within a year at Microsoft

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Working mommy moments the High Tech World

  • Missing my moment in the spotlight…

  • Code word for pumping: “maintenance”

  • Never leave your pump unattended…

  • How to turn down international travel “opportunity”

  • Never underestimate the effects of sleep deprivation

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Resources the High Tech World

  • Contact me:

    • Kellyfi@microsoft.com

  • MentorNet: www.mentornet.net

  • National Engineers Week www.eweek.org

  • UMass Women in Engineering Program (WEP) http://www.ecs.umass.edu/wep.html

  • Women in Technology International (WITI) www.witi.org

  • Society of Women Engineers (SWE) www.swe.org

  • IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) www.ieee.org/organizations/committee/women

  • Toastmasters International www.toastmasters.com

  • Positive Politics at Work by McKenna and McHenry

  • Why So Slow: The Advancement of Women by Virginia Valian

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Congratulations! the High Tech World

Enjoy the new Microsoft Center for Women in Engineering and Science